Inflation’s increase outpaces experts’ predications
According to a recently released June report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the consumer price index (CPI), which measures prices of everyday goods and services, annual inflation has increased to 9.1 percent, marking the largest 12-month increase since 1981. The increase outpaced the Dow Jones estimates, which had believed that the annual June inflation total would be at 8.8 percent.
Meanwhile, energy prices have soared 7.5 percent for the month and were up 41.6 percent over a 12-month period. Additionally, the food index was up by 10.4 percent over a 12-month period and has now increased by at least one percent for the sixth straight month.
Overall, the new June 2022 inflation figure is 3.7 percentage points higher than it was in June 2021, and half a percentage point higher than it was in May of this year.
State Senator Terri Bryant believes that if and when lawmakers return to Springfield for special session, the General Assembly needs to work on legislation that provides additional relief for struggling Illinois families, including capping the state’s sales tax on motor fuel at 18 cents per gallon and permanently eliminating the state’s sales tax on groceries and medicine.
Unfortunately, the Governor appears to be satisfied publicly touting his temporary elimination of the sales tax on groceries and a six-month delay on the state’s two-cent inflationary motor fuel tax increase.
Illinois businesses face tax increase due to unemployment insurance debt
According to a new story from the Wall Street Journal, Illinois is one of four Democratic-controlled states that refused to fully repay the federally borrowed money used to fund unemployment benefits despite the fact that each state had a budget surplus.
Illinois joins California, Connecticut and New York as states that chose to use budget surpluses for other priorities instead of paying back its debt to the federal government.
After the spring legislative session ended, Illinois still owed roughly $1.8 billion in its Unemployment Insurance (UI) Trust Fund even though the state increased its permanent operational budget by nearly $3 billion.
If that $1.8 billion debt, which is the second highest negative balance in the nation, isn’t repaid by Nov. 10, the federal government will begin to charge $21 per employee annually on all businesses within the state next year. Additionally, businesses will be forced to pay a still undetermined higher state tax to fund Illinois’ unemployment programs.
Senator Terri Bryant says that the Democrats’ decision to shortchange the UI Trust Fund is going to hurt businesses still struggling to recover from the Governor’s imposed shutdowns for a problem they didn’t create. She believes that state officials should have used this past year’s $16 billion of unexpected revenue, which included $8.1 billion from the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), to shore up the UI Trust Fund. Now, Illinois businesses are preparing to face the price for the state’s decision.
Governor eases COVID mandates for select groups
After months of Executive Orders forcing individuals tied to certain professions to get vaccinated or tested weekly, Gov. JB Pritzker has finally eased up those mandates but only for a select couple of professions and groups.
In a new Executive Order issued July 13 by the Governor, students and employees at higher education facilities are no longer under the vaccine mandate. Additionally, emergency medical service providers, including EMRs and EMTs had their mandate lifted.
Furthermore, unvaccinated health care staff will no longer be required to submit to weekly testing. Instead, long-term care facilities with the most vulnerable residents, including skilled nursing homes, will now test staff who haven’t been fully vaccinated weekly if they are located in an area of moderate community level transmission, and twice weekly in areas of substantial or high community level transmission.
Additionally, unvaccinated staff at hospitals and other health care facilities that are certified by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will now be required to test weekly only if located in areas of high community level transmission.
Vaccination mandates are also still in place for state-run 24/7 congregate care facilities and health care facilities not covered under the federal CMS vaccine mandate, which includes independent doctors’ offices, dental offices, urgent-care facilities, and outpatient facilities.
DCFS Director held in contempt for 12th time this year
On July 7, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) Director Marc Smith was held in contempt of court for the 12th since January.
The latest motion was filed by a Cook County Juvenile Court Judge because the Department has kept a 15-year-old girl in a psychiatric hospital even though she has been ready for discharge since Jan. 14.
According to the order, Marc Smith in his capacity as director of DCSF is held in contempt of court for ignoring a February court ruling that ordered Smith and the Department to place the girl by March 5. Instead of complying with that order, DCFS stated that it would place the girl by June 15, which it also failed to do.
The girl has now been in a psychiatric hospital for more than 170 days since she could’ve been discharged, which led the Cook County Judge to place Smith under contempt of court and ordering him to pay $1,000 per day fine beginning July 28 unless the girl is placed.
These hefty fines could potentially cost taxpayers thousands of dollars if Smith fails to comply with the judge’s order. Despite the contempt orders and potential fines, Gov. JB Pritzker has continually backed Director Smith who he appointed to the position in 2019.